10 steps to change management

Solid leadership is required to help your team implement real change

How often have you heard, “the only constant is change”? Your business probably looks a lot different today from 10 years ago, or even five years ago. We all understand this principle, yet when it comes time to implement real changes in our organizations, there is usually resistance, which can range from a few grumblings all the way to a blazing revolution.

What if you could lead and manage your whole sales team so that when a big change hits, the attitude is, “OK, we’ve been expecting this and here it is, so let’s go!” This kind of attitude can result from excellent change leadership. Followed through with effective change management, your company will enjoy continued strong sales performance through new policy implementation or even a corporate upheaval. Perhaps weak sales are the main reason for making changes and improved sales performance is the primary objective.

An article I wrote that appeared in the Feb. 6-19, 2015 NH Business Review, “Leading a sales team through the reality of change,” focused on the leadership principles of preparing a sales team for new policies, procedures and, a big one — compensation changes.

It points out the crucial element of building team acceptance for inevitable changes and clarifying corporate objectives. Our focus here is successfully managing your sales team through changes as new policies are implemented and the inevitable disruption runs its course.

Let’s say you and your team are now fully aware of a big change about to happen. Maybe you find yourselves in the thick of it. Decisions are final and trains are leaving the station. You better have a transition plan, or you’ll risk generating resentments or even a revolt. The following 10 steps will provide a change management roadmap with fewer twists, curves and bumps.

Here are 10 steps for successfully managing change:

1. Leaders only make changes with the intention of improving results. Visionary leaders consider the long-term impact of change on their people and clearly explain why the change will make things better for everyone in the long run.

2. Identify the people and processes affected by change. Everyone impacted by changes needs to fully understand their own role as well as their co-workers’ in carrying out new policies and procedures.

3. Communicate the specific changes coming to all those affected. Being direct and specific about how changes will affect each team member removes uncertainty about their new responsibilities.

4. Develop a collaborative plan to implement change. Individual dictates are often met with resistance but a plan developed with the input of engaged team members will be carried out with eagerness and cooperation.

5. Establish goals, responsibilities, metrics and reporting processes. Here you must assign responsibility and accountability to every team member for making the change happen successfully.

6. Communicate the finalized plan to the team. Make it clear to everyone that specific changes in behavior and activities are expected. Give everyone the opportunity to learn and understand their exact role in carrying out the new plan.

7. Goal-oriented actions must be eagerly kicked off. Be assertive and enthusiastic about the changes happening. Lead with action and set clear daily expectations for every team member.

8. Monitor performance by using the metrics developed in Step 5 to measure your team’s progress toward reaching your objectives.

9. Provide feedback to all team members. Every team member should know where they stand in relation to successful change implementation.

10. Adjust activities to continually improve progress. While some initial missteps can be expected, the key is to learn and adjust quickly from them. As you learn new best practices from your experiences, document and share them to accelerate your team’s progress.

When you get your people involved in change implementation planning, carrying out the plan becomes the next practical step. Changes become welcomed milestones in the sales success journey.

Kevin Hallenbeck, principal of Sandler Training-Manchester, can be reached at 603-232-1520 or through bestsalespeople.com.